ABOVE PHOTO: Palace from Han Dynasty.
By Renée S. Gordon
“The most wonderful street in the universe is Broadway. It is a world within itself.”
When Giovanni da Verrazzano first sailed into the New York Harbor and sighted the island he named New Angoulême, after King Francis I of France, in 1524 it had already been the home and hunting ground of Native Americans for 9,000 years. Verrazzano was simply exploring the area and records indicate that he did not set foot on Manhattan. Nearly 100 years later it would be Henry Hudson, in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, who would receive the majority of the credit for “discovering” Manhattan on September 12, 1609, sailing as far north as Albany and mapping the area as he traveled.
The Dutch rapidly laid claim to the land and established a fort on the tip of Manhattan Island in 1613. The first group of Dutch settlers, arriving in 1612, included a black man from Santo Domingo, Jan Rodrigues. According to contemporaneous documents Rodrigues was a free man who worked for Thijs Mossel. When Mossel’s ship sailed out of the harbor he left a lone Rodrigues behind to trade with natives. His fur trading business was an immediate success and an argument can be made that he was the first entrepreneur in New York City. In 1613 Hendrick Christiaensen arrived, along with two additional ships, aboard the Fortuyn. He is honored as the founder of the city but, as indicated, Rodrigues preceded him by a year. www.nps.gov/afbg/historyculture/people.htm
The Dutch colony was founded to facilitate trade and in 1624 they constructed Fort Amsterdam to protect their interests from other Europeans. By 1625 a settlement, New Amsterdam, had grown up around the fort and one year later Peter Minuit made the infamous purchase of the 22,000-acre island of Manhattan for $24.00, now worth more than $60-billion.
People tend to believe that Minuit robbed the Indians because they were naïve and sold their land for trinkets. The Canarsie Indians, a tribe that lived on Long Island and were just passing through sold Manhattan to Minuit, making it one of the New World’s earliest land scams.
In 1664 the British took ownership of the colony and changed its name to honor the Duke of York. The city gained prominence as a trading port and was an international mercantile city by the end of the century.
Through all the changes in ownership, governance and leadership one of the things that remained relatively constant was the path that ran from the southern tip of Manhattan northward. The route, a native trade route known as the Wickquasgeck Trail, was named after one of the regional tribes. The Dutch used it to reach other parts of the island and its earliest mention is found in the 1642 journal of David de Vries. The Dutch found it necessary to widen the portion of the trail that extended from the harbor and they named it Heere, or High, Straat. It was also referred to as Breedeweg, or broad way, and the English used that name. Today’s Broadway still traverses Manhattan but follows the original road only up to 23rd Street before it deviates slightly. Once it reaches Central Park it again follows the original route.
Though the street extends across Manhattan, what most people recognize as Broadway is actually only an 11-block area, from W. 42nd Street to W. 53rd Street and from 6th to 8th Avenues. This “tourist area” is filled with all the excitement and activity that we associate with the city in general. There is noise, lights, live entertainment, restaurants, stores, vendors and lots of photo ops, but, believe it or not, there are also venues that provide a much more mellow experience. Yes, you can actually experience Broadway and come away entertained and rested.
The crucial element in a mellowing out trip to NYC is definitely your accommodations. Your choice must provide proximity to Broadway so that you need not drive, personal touches so that you feel well taken care of and your needs are met and ambiance that corresponds with your expectations of a hotel such as a pool, spa, deluxe rooms and meal options.
One of the city’s newest luxury boutique hotels exceeds guests’ expectations on every level. Even the name, the Sanctuary Hotel, gives a glimpse into what guests can expect and the 111-room hotel is located one block east of Broadway. Each room is furnished with chandeliers, leather, a selection of woods, marble and luxurious bedding and bath products. Guests are also privy to the Equinox Fitness Club, Spresso Café, a rooftop lounge, 24-hour room service and the unique S.T.A.R. Experience Program, where a designated concierge fulfills your requests both during and prior to your arrival.
The Sanctuary won the 2011 European Hospitality Award for International Hotel of the Year as well as TripAdvisor’s 2012 Certificate of Excellence Award. This is the perfect place for a restful and intimate Broadway weekend. 132 West 47th Street. www.sanctuaryhotelnyc.com
PHOTO: Enigma Machine.
Discovery Theater Times Square, 226 West 44th Street, is advertised as “more than a museum” and it certainly is. The rotating exhibitions presented here are educational, state-of-the-art, beautifully mounted, interactive and are as comprehensible to the scholar as to the average visitor. I never fail to come away impressed. Currently there are two exhibitions, “Terracotta Warriors Defenders of China’s First Emperor” and “Spy, The Secret World of Espionage.”
Qin Shi Huang ascended the throne of one of China’s 7 independent states in 246 BC at the age of 13 and in 197 BC he died at the age of 49. During his 36-year reign he unified China and became the first emperor of the entire country and began construction on both the Great Wall and the Grand Canal. Concerned with his legacy he began an 11-year project to build his mausoleum in Lintong, Xian, Shaanxi Province.
To accompany him into the afterlife common and ritual objects were buried with him as well as over 7,000 life-sized terracotta warriors, with horses and chariots. His dynasty lasted more than 10,000 generations and his army, unearthed by farmers in 1974, continues to stand guard. A museum was opened in the 1970s on the archeological site, recognized as one of the most significant in the world, and it was designated a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987.
The exhibition comes to Times Square directly from China and includes 200 treasures and artifacts. Visitors enter through a Moon Gate and in the earlier galleries learn the emperor’s history, view some of the smaller Han Dynasty figures and a wooden model of Palace #1 at Xianyang.
The large terracotta figures on view are breathtaking. They have been restored and are dressed as they would have been at the time. There is also an excellent video that depicts the skill of archers during war. If you miss this exhibit you may have to go to China to see it. It is on view here until August 26th. www.discoverytsx.com/exhibitions/terracotta-warriors
“Spy, The Secret World of Espionage” will be on exhibition until March 13, 2013. The galleries shed light on the world of espionage through artifacts, photos, videos and interactive stations with much of the information resulting from the declassification of government information and the opening of the world’s most famous espionage vault.
The tour begins with a 5-minute background film “Why Spy?” and proceeds into an Operations Center. In this gallery we learn that spies use open sources, blogs, websites, newspapers, and covert sources, field agents and satellite transmissions.
In the second gallery we enter a recreated room of Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, a Russian double agent working for the Americans. It was he who informed Kennedy that the Soviets were not ready to go to war and enabled Kennedy to take his firm stance on the Bay of Pigs. Penkovsky was eventually caught and executed by the Russians for treason in October of 1962. His codename was Hero.
The vast majority of the things on display have never been seen before but a few still stood out for me. The Welbike is one of those thrilling items. This collapsible WWII motorcycle was dropped with parachutists behind enemy lines. It could travel 30 mph for 90-miles on one tank of gasoline.
Other highlights include an Afghani saddle used by the Special Forces, a British motorized submersible used to plant mines on Japanese ships in Singapore’s harbor and Gary Power’s U-2 pilot suit. After the U-2 was shot down more sophisticated aircraft were created and on display is a model of the A-12 that cruised 3x the speed of sound and took photos of objects on the ground from 90,000-ft. Interactive stations include a Laser Maze, a Voice Changer and a kiosk that allows you to computer create personal disguises. www.discoverytsx.com/exhibitions/spy
No trip to NYC is ever complete without taking in at least one theatrical presentation. The first Broadway show, “The Beggar’s Opera,” opened on December 3, 1750 and 261-years later theatergoers are still seeking outstanding performances. Currently one of the season’s best is in performance at the Lunt-Fontaine Theater, 205 W. 46th Street. “Ghost the Musical” is both a wonderful introduction to theater and an entertaining experience for the avid attendee.
The musical generally adheres to the plot of the movie with an update here and there. The choreography, set design and special effects are wonderful and, just as in the movie, the lead character can pass through doors.
There are numerous standout moments, notably the subway scene, but Da’Vine Joy Randolph, as Oda Mae Brown, is a real crowd pleaser. She received a Tony nomination for this, her Broadway debut. I am proud to add that she is from Philadelphia and attended Temple as well as Yale School of Drama.
Tickets are on sale at the box office and on the web and discounts are available. www.ghostonbroadway.com
I wish you smooth travels!
#1 The renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art is now offering the Director’s Tour of the museum’s collection in eight languages. The audio tour features information on the history, architecture and selected works. Adult rental fee is $7.00. www.metmuseum.org
#2 Philadelphia’s Hotel Palomar and The Barnes Foundation are offering a special package that combines a visit to the Barnes with a stay at the art-filled Hotel Palomar. The package, available from July 1st until December 31, 2012, includes priority access and a digital guide to the museum and deluxe hotel accommodations. www.hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com and www.visitphilly.com/withart